Foreign Affairs

The Tucson Shooting As Seen From France

The most right-leaning newspaper in France, Le Figaro, published a piece in the wake of the Tucson shootings: “America Remains A Country Obsessed With Arms.” The article describes two of the highest-profile victims as pro-gun: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords being the owner of a Glock, and the judge killed in the incident having been a defender of the Second Amendment.

“In 2010, Arizona became the third state to authorize the concealed carry of guns without a permit,” the article says of the state itself.

In France, 100% of the people I personally surveyed about the Arizona incident find it mind-boggling that average citizens could have the right to carry around a gun in the city. And they aren’t surprised when one of the many firearms in free and plentiful circulation slips so easily into the hands of a nutjob who proceeds to channel his pathologies through it.

But support for conceal and carry does exist in France, as seen in some of the comments on articles about the tragedy in Arizona. One reader believes that the individual’s right to bear arms is no different than France’s right to possess nuclear weapons as a deterrent. Another points out that in France, all the criminals have guns while innocent citizens are left to be shot like rabbits.

One reader asks what Americans feel they have to protect themselves from, given that Americans haven’t faced a war on their own soil in ages. Another Frenchman responds that each has to defend himself from his neighbor, with 2.5 million Americans each year using a firearm to defend themselves from a criminal act. He further asks why the French don’t insist on the same, especially given the number of wars that have taken place on French soil.

As a Canadian-born Right-winger who has lived in both France and the United States, and enjoyed my share of time at the firing range, I have done a lot of thinking about this issue myself – especially since (as described in last week’s column) I experienced a mugging on a Paris subway train last week.

I believe that people of First World countries are indeed at war, but that the enemy is already within. It’s a fourth-generation war – based on stark cultural, moral and ideological differences rather than geographical boundaries. The inability of our respective political leaders to maintain any sense of moral clarity has led to mushy policies on issues from mental health to immigration.
 
Too many concessions have been made to accommodate every person or group of person with zero interest in following the traditional rules and values. Now it’s not only considered bizarre and rare to stand up to something as violent as a mugging, but it is prohibited by law as a way to eliminate the problem in the absence of unequivocal proof of imminent and equal threat. The end result is a society where criminals and thugs fearlessly run roughshod over innocent citizens straitjacketed by the law in the interest of “social order.” Places like Marseille are now indistinguishable from the Maghreb. How is this phenomenon manifestly any different from a military coup?

American friends have asked me over the past week: “When those two Arabs mugged you, didn’t it make you wish guns were legal in France?” The thought crossed my mind, but my answer is “no.” More guns in circulation would have increased the chance of the suspects being armed. And despite their threats to “shoot me in the head,” I could tell that they didn’t have any weapons on them.

Secondly, had I been in possession of a gun myself, I don’t trust that I in fact may not have used it on my muggers, as some of my American friends said they would have done, a priori. Then guess who, by law, becomes the victim? That’s right: the poor mugger who only wanted an iPhone and who never laid a finger on me. I reckon that a shot of pepper spray to the face would have neutralized the suspects in my case just as well as a gun – so I now carry with me the best spray weapon on the market in Europe, made by the Swiss Army.

The use of guns in the commission of crimes in France is still extremely rare. Adding more guns to the equation is unlikely to improve things for anyone. But in a place like Arizona where so many are already floating around, the best one can hope for is good mental health vigilance and regular one-night stands with Lady Luck.

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